Matt Rothschild

Constitutional Convention, No Dems Allowed

State bill says GOP picks all delegates to convention championed by Kochs.

By - Mar 6th, 2017 11:51 am
Read the fine-print. Image from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Read the fine-print. Image from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Republican legislators in Wisconsin are jumping aboard the bandwagon to call an “Article V” Convention, and they are trying to exclude Wisconsin Democrats from being delegates to it.

“Article V” refers to that part of the Constitution that spells out the process for making amendments: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.”

It’s the latter part of Article V that rightwingers have been pushing for: getting two thirds of the states to agree to call a convention. Promoted by the Koch Brothers and their American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they’re getting close to their wish. Already, 29 states have passed resolutions in favor of such a convention. They only need five more.

Wisconsin may be one of them.

Since 2013, a bipartisan group calling itself the Assembly of State Legislatures has been meeting to set the rules for the Article V Convention. Wisconsin Republican State Senator Chris Kapenga is the co-president of this group. One of the adopted rules says: “The Convention is limited to proposing only an amendment or amendments to the Constitution of the United States whose subject(s) were specifically included in the resolutions of at least two-thirds of the several States. This Convention has no authority to consider any other subject or entertain any motion to consider any other subjects.”

In Wisconsin, Kapenga and Republican State Representative Kathy Bernier have begun circulating three joint resolutions that deal with an Article V Convention.

Under one of these resolutions, Wisconsin would get seven delegates to such a convention, and Republican leaders the right to pick all seven of those delegates!

Here’s what it says:

“The speaker of the assembly shall appoint 3 members of the assembly.” The speaker is Republican Robin Vos.

“The president of the senate shall appoint 3 members of the senate.” That is Republican Senator Roger Roth.

“The governor shall appoint 1 member of either the assembly or the senate.” Of course, that’s Republican Governor Scott Walker.

One of the resolutions would try to limit the scope of such a convention to a single subject only: The passing of a balanced budget amendment.

Forcing the U.S. Government to have a balanced budget would require massive cuts, most likely in domestic social welfare programs. And it would tie the government’s hand in the event of a recession or a depression, when the proven remedy is deficit spending.

There are additional concerns about the Article V movement. Common Cause and other groups oppose it because they fear it would lead to other amendments that could curtail our rights.

“Convention proponents claim they can limit a convention to just one subject, but most legal scholars disagree,” writes Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Because the Constitution provides no details on how a convention would work, how delegates would be chosen or apportioned among the states and what rules would be in place, the gathering could undertake a wholesale rewrite of the Constitution, endangering fundamental rights like freedom of speech and of religion and the right to trial by jury.”

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Categories: Politics

16 thoughts on “Constitutional Convention, No Dems Allowed”

  1. It may be the right time for a Constitutional Convention, but its agenda should not be limited to Koch brothers priorities. Instead, the convention should focus on the preliminary steps toward a peaceful separation of the United States into the three very different countries that it has become: Pacifica (California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii), Atlantica (New England and the Eastern Seaboard) and Centralia (Confederacy, Midwest, Plains and Mountain States).

    The Centralia delegates should present their vision for the Trump/Ryan/Walker/Koch future: corporate control of all aspects of life; deregulation of everything; gutting what remains of the safety net, including privatizing Social Security and Medicare, low taxes for no services, privatizing infrastructure, gutting environmental protections, getting rid of immigrants/white people #, further militarizing society and more guns everywhere. Oh, and a balanced budget.

    This is the heart of the Republican/Koch/Trump/Ryan/Walker agenda. It has a geographic and racial core, and this large group should be able to live in freedom as they define it. But so should those in the other two countries that currently make up the United States. At a minimum, there should be a discussion of the unwillingness of what appears to be a majority of the population to accept the fundamental changes that are taking place, and to peacefully separate from the undemocratic (small “d”) United States.

  2. At the request of our organization, Single Subject Amendment, H.J.Res. 25 was introduced, in the 115th Congress by Congressman Tom Marino, to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the use of riders by members of Congress. Forty-one state constitutions have a single subject provision, which prohibits bills that address more than one subject from becoming law, but this provision, applicable to Congress, is missing in the U.S. Constitution.
    H.J.Res. 25, at, will never pass, however, until Congress is forced to pass it. The only way to force Congress to pass it is to threaten an Article V Convention to propose this amendment. Through our efforts, the Florida Legislature passed, CS/HM 261, which makes application to convene an Article V Convention for the limited purpose of proposing this amendment. Other states will soon follow. A copy of CS/HM 261 can be viewed at:
    A document on our website, at, addresses the misrepresentations regarding the convening of an Article V Convention and also details the urgent need to add a Single Subject Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This document is backed up with citations and links.
    Whether Congress proposes this amendment or an Article V Convention proposes this amendment, to be adopted, it must be ratified by 38 states.

  3. If anyone had any doubts(really?) that the republican party is simply onoy interested in a democracy, this should disuade them from that opinion. Gerrymandering, phony ID legislation, criminalizing protests and this. continue the trend of republicans showing they have no interest in a democratic goverrnment. They want to rule, or more accurately, they want the corporate elites to rule and leave the citizens out.

  4. Susan Peters says:

    Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the willingness to advance in spite of fear. Many Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, emerged from their comfort zone in November and voted for Mr. Trump, who refused to campaign the way it had always been done and reminded us that we, the people, are the final authority in this nation. He broke through the barrier of the entrenched establishment and returned to America’s citizens what is rightfully ours. An Article V Convention to make amendments to the Constitution is the tool our Founding Fathers gave us to force Washington to behave. Protocols and rules of order (such as Mason’s rules) have governed state legislatures and state conventions since the beginning of our nation and are unlikely to be dismissed in an Article V Convention. Is it a risk? Yes, but if good people band together from the individual states to re-assert our liberties, we can overwhelm the weak risk lack of reason offers and move on to provide future generations with the freedoms the first generation of Americans fought to provide to us.

  5. Paul Robberson says:

    In my efforts as a volunteer for the Convention of States Project I have seen no evidence of the Koch brothers. However, if they agree, excellent. The purpose is not to restrict rights, but rather to allow them to flourish by scaling back the invading presence of an ever-expanding federal government.

  6. Estella Lauter says:

    On the other hand, I see no evidence for an Article V Convention! What problem are the proponents trying to address?
    It sounds like a dangerous act that could be used to re-write our whole Constitution to give the federal government exactly the powers to control our citizens that other commentators do not want.This is what happened in the 1930s throughout Europe. We lost a lot of men in the war that resulted from those takeovers. Why would we open ourselves to that possibility again when we know the agony it produces?
    Our process of amendment works well. Further, if we want to curtail executive power, we the people can begin by stopping this executive branch from attacking freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom of peaceful demonstration against actions we do not support.
    The idea of having one party choose all of the representatives to a convention flies in the face of our entire history and calls into serious question the intent of the action. Our Constitution works fine when we observe the principle of checks and balances throughout our government. One of those checks is a two-party system for passing legislation. Why would we choose to undermine a proven principle?

  7. Paul Adcock says:

    Wait a minute, weren’t you anti-Koch guys (not that the Koch brothers are exactly the friends of the Tea Party either) complaining about:

    1.) the bailouts of all of them corporations in 2008.
    2.) All the federal subsides, etc that the government gives to corporations.
    3.) A government that goes into too many wars improperly
    4.) The federal government telling two consenting adults what they can and can’t do

    You’d think you’d favor an Article V convention to limit the power of the federal government.

  8. Dean Free says:

    I disagree with most of the comments. Restricting to one amendment is foolish. Now is the time to take power back from a federal system gone amok. Read the Liberty Amendments by Mark Levin and educate yourselves from one of the great Constitutional scholars of our time. There are many amendments that the majority of Americans should be in favor of, like term limits. This idea of dividing the country or trying to during this process is lunacy. Get real. Find unity in common ground. It’s there, you just have to use common sense, and look.

  9. Tim says:

    Term limits are a terrible idea that somehow got an air of respectability. If I have a representative doing a great job, there’s no reason to boot them out.

    Term limits just ensure we have an endless supply of people that don’t know what they’re doing, so they turn to the lobbyists in waiting to tell them what to do.

  10. Scott Neuman says:

    Before we change anything, it’s important for everyone to know our ratio of people to Representatives is way off. Article the First of the Bill of Rights is ratified by the recent discover that only one state was needed to ratify the amendment and that state was Connecticut which announced they had ratified the amendment but never sent the ratification vote to Philadelphia. With that vote, our Congressional districts should be one Representative for every 50,000 people.
    A simple search of Amazon offers the latest research on the subject under “Ratified Congressional Apportionment Amendment”. With our current districts screwed up at 600,000 to 1,100,000 people per district, we need a better method of representation and this amendment offers it. Something your founders wanted you to have but got screwed up in 1911. The book goes into great detail by a well known constitutional scholar that our government is working hard to discredit and with good reason. It kills Gerrymandering, and returns good government to the people.

  11. Tom D says:

    Scott Neuman (post 10): One Representative for every 50,000 citizens would require over 6,000 House members. Is that realistic??

  12. Deborah Engel says:


  13. Scott Neuman says:

    Tom D, Yes but more, it’s constitutional.

  14. Thomas Kelly says:

    The founding fathers put in the Article Valley amendment, because it was a priority to give action to the people when ever a Constitution was misinterpreted or abuse of power, such as the development centuries passed. To say this was an advantage to Republicans is an example of misinterpreting the reason for an Article Valley. I wouldn’t think either party wants to disregard or overlook Article V.

  15. Sam says:

    In my work with Wolf PAC, I’ve seen the Koch brothers show up… once. They sent 2 out of state paid staffers to oppose us in New Jersey. We showed up with 25 dedicated local volunteers. New Jersey quickly became State 4 (now 5) to call for a Convention to overturn Citizens United.

    There are 2 groups we’ve seen a lot: the crazy conspiracy theorists from the John Birch Society, though they usually help us by acting so insane. The other one is COMMON CAUSE, quoted in this article. They know how to behave in public and have trusted relationships with legislators, but in the end they spread the same lies as JBS.

  16. Alexander Reagan says:

    Having an Article V Constitutional Convention is not what our Founding Fathers wanted. Northern delegates to our first Constitutional Convention voted for Article V at Southern delegates insistence in hopes to appease Southern delegates into approving the final draft of the Constitution. They didn’t.

    During the first Convention there were some calls to adjourn and reorganize into a second Constitutional Convention. James Madison strenuously objected and said so in a letter to George Lee Turberville where he said, “Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second.”

    Instead Madison devised 12 proposed amendments to be introduced by the other Article V means, that is, through the safe mode of amending the Constitution, through Congress.

    10 amendments made it through Congress. They were ratified by the required ¾ of the states. They are known as the Bill of Rights.

    Each of the other 17 amendments to the Constitution have been introduced through Congress.

    Of interesting note: What the wrongly named Convention of States (COS) will never tell you is that the first two petitions to Congress calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention were for a general convention with no proposed amendments subject language. Not the specifically worded subject matter proposed amendments-convention call that the Conference of States organization tried to push through in the 1980s, or the general subject matter proposed amendments-convention call being pushed through the States by COS now. After the first two, it was a long 42 years before another state sponsored proposed convention call was introduced. History proves that we should listen to the States in 1898 that proposed the first two calls for an Article V Constitutional Convention because they were closest to and more knowledgeable about the original Founding era intent.

    COS’ official position is they’re not sure if general subject matter proposed amendments will stand up to Constitutional muster or legal challenge. But their subterfuge is: They’re hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of enough state legislators and enough Citizens long enough to get us into a dreadful convention.

    Oppose any Article V Constitutional Convention calls.

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